A forest in flower: Indian almond trees white, other trees yellow, a kind of magnolia with delicate pink blossoms; and among these hues like perfume, flew a cloud of birds, black, shot with glistening metallic green, and butterflies of polished bronze and dark gold flashed with blue, and others again sprinkled with white on the nacreous, orange-tinted wings.And then we came away from this hospital, where no sister of charity, no woman even, had brought some little consolation or the kindliness of a smile to these dying creatures, whose wandering or frantic black eyes haunted me.
A very good quail that is often the victor, is worth eight or ten rupees. At a funeral a day or two since one of the bearers had his quail in a cage hanging from his girdle—a champion bird he would not part from.A crowd of servants in red came down the flight of steps to the landing-place, and stood on each side, while at the top the Maharajah stood to receive me, in a tunic of yellow brocaded with silver, and silk trousers of various shades of violet and gold tissue; his turban was quite small, with an aigrette and a spray of diamonds.
At the end of a passage that runs round the temple an old woman who had just been bathing was changing her wet saree for a dry one, and appeared quite stripped, dropping her garments, and careful only not to let her face be seen.In the afternoon—calm and almost cool—I went to call on the Resident, who talked to me of India in the days of Dupleix, of its departed glory, and the poor old fort of Chandernagore, once impregnable and now demolished under the provisions of treaties; and as we walked on through the town, between gardens that look like the great parks of the French kings, all the past seemed to live again on this forgotten spot of earth, and every moment, in the silence of the purple dusk, I could have fancied that I saw in the avenues, under the tall ph?nix palms, the shades of powdered marquises in skirts with full farthingales, and of gallant knights of St. Louis; then from a far distance came the sound of a piano—some simple melody quavering in the air that was so full of memories.
From Lahore hither is an almost uninterrupted series of encampments—English and native regiments established in huts in the open fields far from every town, close only to the railway line. At one station a detachment of Indian guards were drawn up, and Abibulla declared from the number of men that they must be expecting a general at least; but nothing was discharged from the train but some cases of rupees, checked off by two English officers, and then carried to the barracks under the escort of sepoys.Through the half-open doors in the courtyards bones were bleaching, almost buried under the fine powder that lies on everything. And from this dust, as we trod it, rose a sharp smell of pepper and smoke. Twisted branches drooped forlorn from the skeletons of a few trees that were left standing. Parasitic creepers had woven a flowing robe of tangle over a statue of Kali, left unbroken in front of a small temple in ruins; and all over the withered[Pg 198] and faded growth the fine white dust had settled in irregular patterns, a graceful embroidery rather thicker in the folds.
The highest peak of the chain that overlooks Bunnoo looks like the ruins of a fortress. A legend, which must have had its origin at some time when a man-eating tiger lurked in the neighbourhood, relates that it is the lair of a ferocious ogre always on the look-out for prey. Nothing on earth would induce any of the natives to go up the mountain; nay, for a long distance even the plain is not too safe.The young prince then goes on his way in search of the magical flower. He is about to rest awhile in a cavern, but at the moment when he lies down on a stone it is transformed into a monster made of bladder, which rears itself enraged in the air with a trumpet-cry. By good luck the king's son calls upon the aid of the prophet Suleiman, whom the dragon also reveres, and the pacified monster conveys Tazulmulook to the garden of Bakaoli, and, moreover, gives him a ring which will be a talisman in danger.
With day came the grip of fire, the overwhelming[Pg 302] mastery of the heat. The sunshine pierced through every crack in the shutters and blinds, intolerably vivid. In feverish exhaustion, helpless to withstand the glow and light, we could but lie under the waving punkah and await the blessed return of night.Down the middle of the Ganges a white bundle is being borne, and on it a crow pecking the body of a child wrapped in its winding-sheet.
As we returned to Lahore the palace rose before us among trees, a strip of wall, uninjured, covered with sapphire and emerald tiles; a fragile minaret crowning a tower bowered in flowering shrubs—and then the vision was past. The carriage drove on for[Pg 238] a long way by ruins and vestiges of beauty, and re-entered the town, where lanterns were being lighted over the throng that pushed and hustled about the fair.
Some more small boys, a little way off, were doing embroidery, mingling gold thread and coloured silks in patterns on shawls. They were extremely fair, with long-shaped black eyes under their bright-hued pointed caps, and their dresses were gay and pretty, mingling with the glistening shades of silks and gold. And they were all chattering, laughing, and twittering as they worked, hardly needing the master's supervision.In one of the inmost circles, a sacred elephant had gone must, breaking his ropes, and confined now by only one leg. The chains fastened round his feet as soon as he showed the first symptoms of madness were lying broken in heaps on the ground. The brute had demolished the walls of his stable and then two sheds that happened to be in his way; now he was stamping a dance, every muscle in incessant motion, half swallowing his trunk, flinging straw in every direction, and finally heaping it on his head. A mob of people stood gazing from a distance, laughing at his heavy, clumsy movements; at the least step forward they[Pg 113] huddled back to fly, extending the circle, but still staring at the patient. In an adjoining stable were two more elephants very well cared for, the V neatly painted in red and white on their trunks, quietly eating and turning round only at the bidding of the driver; but one of them shed tears.
"No; Kali is a cruel, bloodthirsty goddess, while the Virgin——"Far away a murmur is heard, a long-drawn chant, suddenly arousing the birds; they flap their wings, stretch themselves clumsily, and then fly towards one of the towers.In the mystery of a polychrome temple, whose walls are closely covered with sculptured bas-reliefs of gods in the shape of men or animals, is a relic, the sacred tooth of Buddha; and all about the precious object, which is enclosed in a series of shrines within impenetrable walls, there is no sign of respect, but all the noise and bustle of a fair, a perfect turmoil of hurrying, chattering folk, whose only anxiety is to keep unbelievers away from the sacred spot.详情
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